For a few hundred more I could order a new box.Photo: Mickey Teich
December 4, 2022 —
The meeting at the radio station was coming to an end when I called someone I had just met. “Hey,” I said sheepishly, “you already know how to find me, but let me give you my business card.” The most I expected was that she would indulge me, slip the card into her pocket, and then probably put it Throw it in the first trash can she comes across outside. Instead, she stopped at my door, took the card more than willingly, and a few of us started talking, thanking the humble card. This makes me happy because, quite simply, I’ve always loved business cards.
Lest you think I’m a super weird kid, let me assure you: I also collect baseball cards. Somewhere in future President Mitch Teich’s archives, I have a 1976 Milwaukee Brewers DH Henry Aaron card. I collect football, hockey and basketball cards. I even once sent proof of purchase to someone at Wonder Bread to get my free “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” trading card featuring Richard Dreyfuss building Devils Tower National Monument out of mashed potatoes one of.
But that collection pales in comparison to my lifetime collecting business cards.
I spent most of my childhood in Washington, D.C., a business card-heavy place. My parents exchanged business cards many times, and they were more than happy to hand them to me afterwards. I’m not picky: my business card collection includes astronauts and insurance agents; lieutenant governors and motel owners. Business cards in French, Danish and Japanese. Somehow, before eBay came along, I got cards from Nelson Rockefeller and Spiro Agnew. (Why? I don’t know.)
I had thousands of business cards in organizers and shoeboxes before I got the ones that excite me the most: my own business cards when I got my first full-time journalism job, and I spread it out like Johnny apple seeds, In story missions and meetings. I still have a part of that box from 1992, and a part of the box from my next job and after. They come in handy as bookmarks if I decide to read 836 books at once.
Anyway, I was surprised that my conference guest was as much a fan of business cards as I was, albeit younger and more tech-savvy than I was. Of course, she’d support the idea of a Bluetooth business card scanner that lets you handle the cards yourself while organizing the information so you can do a mail merge from the comfort of your phone.
But no, she appreciates physical cards. If I do, and the behavior of swapping them. In addition to giving you a lifetime bookmark or emergency floss, they plant a physical flag in our moment of existence. In terms of self-awareness, the internet is both timeless and ephemeral. But exchanging a physical, tangible business card with someone is a way of honoring a real human interaction, no matter how fleeting. Here’s a 2″ by 3″ snapshot of us without cringing at our old hairstyles.
So even in this electronic age, I still keep the business cards that people give me. Send me yours and I’ll keep it too. Still, if you’re a history buff, feel free to bid me a Spiro Agnew card.